March 9, 2012
One of the best players in Washington history, 2011 grad Venise Chan returned to campus this week on her way to Los Angeles where she was honored as a recipient of the Tom Hansen Pac-12 Conference Medal. Since graduating, Chan returned home to Hong Kong, where she has continued to compete with support from the Hong Kong Tennis Association. She has raised her ranking to a career-high No. 448 and is still on the rise. Chan recently competed in the Fed Cup, leading Hong Kong to a runner-up finish behind India in the Asian Zonal Group II. In the deciding match she went against one of the best doubles players in the world, Sania Mirza, coming up just short. She followed that with three tournaments through Egypt, and she has competed in China, Japan, Korea, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, and Australia since jumpstarting her pro career. After practicing in the morning with her former Husky teammates, Chan talked to GoHuskies.com about life on the pro tour.
GoHuskies.com: So this is your first trip back since graduation?
Venise Chan: Yeah, the Pac-12 would pay for some of my travel, and then I could come up here to see the girls and practice with them. I was going to come for the Stanford match but I could only get on the 2 o'clock from L.A. to here and I got in around 4:30. Then back to L.A. and then from there to Hong Kong, which is nice that it goes directly there. It's like a 12 hour flight.
GH: So life as a professional, has it been what you expected? How do you think it's been going?
VC: When I first started I just thought I'd play for a couple months and see how it goes. Then I realized I really wanted to keep playing and see how far I could go. I think getting back up into the rankings has gone pretty fast, faster than I expected. I've played a lot of tournaments. I think it's going not bad and I'm up to four hundred something now. I have until October before I need to defend my points, so whatever I can do until October is a gain. I'd like to try and get to the three-hundreds as soon as I can. I've had good support from the Hong Kong Tennis Association so it's a good opportunity to deep going for some more years.
GH: What have been some of your biggest highlights so far?
VC: I played the Fed Cup in February. We almost beat ... ugh I don't want to talk about that. I played the number one doubles against India with Sania Mirza. The third set we were up 5-3, I was so pissed, how could we have lost that? And after 5-all we were up 40-15 in the next two games. [GH: And you lost 7-5?] Yes! I don't know how. She played really well though. She's top-10 in doubles [currently No. 7 in the world in doubles] so she's good. I played well because I really wanted to win. But that's the toughest opponent I've had in doubles. When I travel I focus really only on singles. If we had won that match with India we would have got to go into group one, because we're in group two. Then after group one is the World Group.
GH: You had a big tournament back in the fall, right? Your first 100,000 level tourney?
VC: Yes, in November, I guess I was a little bit lucky, one reason I did well was it was indoors, and I was used to practicing four years indoors. It helped I think to go to that tournament and play indoors. But I started from qualifying. I'm used to playing better when I'm the underdog. I play better, and then when I get a ranking I feel the pressure or whatever. But I played a Thai girl in the first round, and I was down 2-6 and love-2, so I thought okay I'll go home in one match. But I came back and won that one and the next one and got to the main draw. Then I was lucky, I guess, I faced a wildcard. But that match I was nervous because whoever won that would get twenty rankings points and that's a huge difference.
(Kimiko Date-Krumm) was there, so it was cool to see her in the same tournament I was playing in. She came back from retirement and she's 40 years old but is now back in the top-50 or something, it's crazy.
And I was the first to use their new hawkeye system. I was the first ever in the ITF to use the hawkeye. Usually only WTA events have it. It was funny because it was the first match and everyone wanted the Taipei girl to call it first because it's their system, and they wanted to claim her as the first one to use it. But I called it first [GH: Were you right?] I was wrong! But still I was the first to use it! It was fun, but I didn't know how to use it very well, I couldn't focus on when I could call it and when I couldn't.
GH: What were your first goals that you had as a professional?
VC: When I first started I just thought `okay, I'll just go over my last best ranking.' Then I'll retire or whatever. But now that I have I don't want to stop.
GH: Where were you playing before coming back to Seattle?
VC: I won a 10,000 level in Egypt, but then I went to the semifinals in the next one and then quarterfinals, so it was declining. I had been on a 13-0 streak from Fed Cup but that ended.
GH: Do you hope to get your ranking up enough to where you could maybe get into qualifying for a major tournament?
VC: Yeah, that's one of my goals. The cut-off is around 230 for the major qualifying. I kind of know where I stand right now in the rankings. To go above that level I really need a plan, and to practice with players that are in the top-100 just to get used to their game. I think that's really important to me. I learn, I adapt to however my opponent plays. They help me to judge and get used to it. My fitness is really important too for getting to a higher level.
GH: What's your coaching situation like now?
VC: (Hong Kong Tennis Association) are actually trying to get me one ... since August I've been traveling with a guy who is kind of a hitting partner, not really my coach but he helps me a lot with preparing my game. But I only travel with him. But now I think they're trying to get an Indonesian woman, who is now working with another Hong Kong woman, but she might work with me. She had been top-20 in the world before.
GH: What do you miss most about college tennis?
VC: Obviously I'm traveling alone now so I miss the team; having fun after matches and during practice, and a little drama. I miss that a lot. But I don't have to study now, which helps. I can just focus on tennis. Once I played 23 matches in a row and I didn't feel tired at all. I was just excited to play again because I don't have to deal with schoolwork. But then I maybe miss having the busy schedule, too.
GH: How far ahead do you have your schedule planned out? Where will you go next?
VC: I have it planned through March and then I will plan the entire year until December. But mostly around Asia, maybe a little in Europe. It depends how I do, first. I'm playing 25's coming up in Thailand.
GH: Do you make friends on tour or is it hard with everyone always competing?
VC: I do make friends a lot, but it's hard to be seeing each other a lot because we are from different places and going to different competitions, and it's more competitive so that's different from college tennis. It's fun to travel and see people, and after matches I try and go out so I can tell people I don't just go to the courts when I travel.
GH: Have you talked much with Denise Dy about her playing after college?
VC: Yeah, I told her to play doubles with me after college and she said yes. She could stay with me but she said it could be hard to get a sponsor.
GH: Would there be a chance at the Olympics for Hong Kong?
VC: That's my second goal, but that's the hardest. Tennis you almost have to be top hundred or top eighty to play in the Olympics. If I could have one spot for Hong Kong I'd definitely be playing, but it's not like that. Maybe Asian Games first, I will play that for sure.
GH: Well have fun in Los Angeles and we'll be rooting for you this year!